Friday, February 3, 2012

Noam Chomsky update II

Back in the 70s, during the PR campaign for the Chicago Rock-Against-Racism event (which I helped organize), I attempted to interview Patti Smith... which basically turned out like this interview. Just as we got introduced, we got cut off. I always wondered if it was a right-wing roadie or somebody, who did that. Well, today, I can't blame right-wing roadies, I blame Gregg Jocoy, my well-meaning consigliere, who could not refrain from fiddling with buttons and various electronic gimcracks whilst I introduced myself to Dr Noam Chomsky. Suddenly, BEEP, cut off. Shades of Patti Smith! Major panic, sweating, hot flashes, etc.

When I called the good professor back, he was unperturbed by the interruption (obviously used to dealing with clueless hippies), but it was then that I lost the recording on Free Conference Gregg kept on fiddling with knobs, but I could tell by his grim expression that we had messed it up and done A Bad Thing. (Ah, the ever-illusive spirit of radio.)

It is notable that the interview took place not in our usual digs, the WFIS radio-station studio, but in Gregg's mother-in-law's bedroom. So we ain't exactly high-tech. After the disappointing quality of Jeff Sharlet's interview, we really wanted to do better. Gregg bought some electronic do-thangs that were supposed to solve all our auditory problems and MAKE IT BETTER.

And in trying to do better, we did worse. (sob)

So, I will not be running an interview (much less a transcript), since we didn't GET the damn thing... BUT YES I ACTUALLY TALKED TO HIM! (PS: My side of the interview recorded fine! LOL) I am going to try and recall the substance of the interview as best I can. Below is a paraphrase of our conversation, which was about 12 minutes long.


I introduced myself as a South Carolina Occupier and asked what he thought of the Occupy movement in general.

He replied, it is a tremendous thing, and goes against so much of what Americans have been taught: not to care about each other. The networks of caring and connection that have been recently established have been as important as the movement itself. The concept of Occupy has caught on like wildfire; everywhere he goes, he said, he meets Occupiers, in small towns and even during a recent visit to Australia, there were Occupiers. It is a tremendous spirit that has taken hold. (last sentence is a direct quote)

I told Dr Chomsky that we were excited about the Al Jazeera article (focusing on SC Occupiers), which made us feel important down here in South Carolina, and he said we should be proud. I also said I felt that the history of secession and Civil War here in SC (first state to secede from the Union) has made people afraid and leery of politics, even now. At the least, many "moderates" seem unduly skeptical of ideology and political involvement. Dr Chomsky said that was very interesting. YES, NOAM CHOMSKY OPINED THAT I SAID SOMETHING INTERESTING! (Now fighting back the self-aggrandizing urge to add the blurb "Interesting!"--Noam Chomsky, to the margin of this blog.)

At this point, we discussed the fact that there is still a confederate battle flag flying at our state capitol. Dr Chomsky wishes that the Martin Luther King memorials would mention the Poor People's Campaign, which actually began here in South Carolina, something I hadn't known. Northern liberals liked Martin Luther King Jr as long as he was fighting ignorant Alabama sheriffs, Chomsky said, but when he brought his battle up north and confronted northern racism, they weren't so happy to see him. And he also believes King's legacy should pointedly mention that he strongly believed in helping all of the poor; Civil Rights was only the beginning of his work.

And finally, I asked him if he thought there were specific problems with the word OCCUPY, as some progressives have said.

The world-famous linguist chuckled, and offered the very common-sense observation that you can use any word any way you like, and Occupy is a good word to start with. It is precisely because it was used in a colonialist way, that it is a good word to use now. It shows that people understand what has been going on: Occupation. And now, WE are going to do some occupying.

The word belongs to everybody, he said.

I wound up by telling him at least one SC Occupier had been inspired by him, and cited him as the reason why he had decided to join the movement. Dr Chomsky replied that we were the inspiring ones. I was thrilled!


Of course, I wasn't thrilled when I realized we didn't have the interview recorded, but figured I had at least gotten further than I did with Patti Smith.

Gregg is upset, but not so upset that he doesn't have a million more ideas for the show, innovations galore, including podcasts. He doesn't miss a beat! If it wasn't for his amazing resolve, I wouldn't even be doing any of this stuff in the first place, so I can't fuss at him. Besides, I knew it was dicey--we are still amateurs. As Gregg says: we attempted to walk before we could crawl. But you have to learn some kinda way... unfortunately, trial-and-error still seems to be the learning method of choice.

I figure my paraphrased interview is better than nothing. And it was incredibly wonderful to talk to a living legend. Tomorrow's show will feature my paraphrasing of Dr Chomsky (which I have done to the best of my ability here) and I will be having some sport with Gregg and his love of electronic thingamabobs, and why he needs to keep his feverish pre-game button-pushing to a mimimum.


But in all honesty, it WAS a stone gas.


Blue Heron said...

I had the pentagram drawn on the floor but I swear I never lit the candles!

bryce said...

love yr positivity, d - one of the best thingz about u. xoxo

Ann O'Dyne said...

Love his comment that the NYC gang were not pleased to see MLK come at them with criticism.

'a stone gas' indeed, and yes please do 'add the blurb "Interesting!"--Noam Chomsky, to the margin'

Legends recognise each other.

JoJo said...

Sorry to hear about the technical difficulties! It figures that would happen! But well done on getting to talk to him!! That's a feather in your cap for sure!!!

sheila said...

Tell Gregg to keep his paws off your knobs.
Oh, that would have been a good one to hear! I'm sure that's one mistake that won't happen again!

West said...

OK, so people have been taught not to care about each other... would that have been like Obama and Biden, who gave a pittance to charity... or like the Occupiers that didn't want to feed the homeless in New York?

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